In today’s business environment, learning consultants or training consultants are constantly challenged with the reality that organizational development and change is inevitable. Over the past couple of years, almost every company has been pulled into a massive vortex of chaotic change and lean times.
The companies that survive will be the ones that have realized that instead of fighting the force of the vortex, it’s far better to get up to speed with it and learn how to implement change at a light speed pace.
Two essential ingredients are absolutely necessary in creating the type of nimble organization with the agility to navigate these tumultuous times:
1. Leadership….that is strong, positive and focused.
2. People…at all levels who are not only motivated and committed, but also skilled and competent in the areas needed to execute new business strategies from the ground up.
Just what does it take to ensure that these two essentials are in place so your company is ready to face the challenges ahead?
One could think of the current economic climate as analogous to being in a war. As your company is undergoing an organizational development transformation, it is right in the middle of a battlefield with bombs exploding everywhere. Competitors are firing missiles and tossing grenades your way and landmines are only footsteps away. If this is the environment, then it makes sense to take our key lessons in leadership from one of the greatest generals in history.
Learning consultants from across the world adhere to the following 13 leadership rules, as outlined from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, to help guide mangers through a highly volatile organizational development process.
Rule #1: It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
In a trying economy, this rule is more important than ever. It is important to note that, as the economy and competitive landscape changes, so will the progress of your organizational development process. This should not serve as a deterrent, however, as it is essential that leaders have a clear vision beyond the present toward a brighter future.
Rule #2: Get mad, then get over it
Anger has often been called the “energy of caring.” We get angry over the things we care about the most. During times of organizational development change, it is important for you to coach your team not to eliminate conflict, but to quickly move beyond the heated moments toward productive action to implement the change.
Rule #3: Avoid having your ego so close to your position that, when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
To survive and ultimately thrive in a scarcity driven, competitive business climate, it is sometimes necessary to step outside of your comfort zone – way outside. This may mean giving up some of your long held beliefs about the way things should be done in order to try approaches that are new and innovative.
Rule #4: It can be done!
Learning consultants or training consultants prize this rule as being one of the most influential! Having doubt that your company is capable of adapting to a change can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you as a leader doubt success, your feeling can become contagious throughout your organization. If your people lack confidence, then implementing change will be an uphill battle.
Rule #5: Be careful what you choose, you may get it.
Going for solutions that are quick fixes may seem attractive in the short run, but may place your company at a strategic disadvantage in the long run. Eliminating a product or service, for example, may help as a quick cost cutting measure, but may lead to a crippling loss of market share needed for future success.
Rule #6: Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
In today’s economy, there is no shortage of adversity. Great leaders face adversity head on and continue to do the right thing which, in turn, generates confidence and perseverance among all of your employees.
Rule #7: You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.
As a leader, you are in a position of influence, but keep in mind others’ decisions are ultimately their own. By the same token, outside forces will often try to influence your decisions. As a leader you have to remember that ultimately, you are responsible.
Rule #8: Check small things.
In chaotic times, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the details. In order for organizational change to be successful, flawless execution is an imperative. Remember that “the devil is always in the details.”
Rule #9: Share Credit
When implementing change during turbulent times, successes can sometimes be few and far between. It’s important to remember to celebrate small successes and to share credit. The best leaders share credit for success and take the blame for failures or setbacks. Recognition of accomplishments and celebration of even small successes doesn’t have to cost a dime - and it can be one of the most powerful motivators for your people.
Rule #10: Remain calm. Be kind.
When business conditions are challenging and stressful, there is always the risk that tempers will flare and words will be exchanged that everyone later regrets. Steadiness and calm engenders confidence in your people and helps them to focus on the critical tasks needed to implement the change.
Rule #11: Have a vision. Be demanding.
When embarking upon an organizational change, whether it’s introducing a new brand or post-merger integration activities, it is critical for you as a leader to create and share a compelling vision of the future. Be demanding of your people in moving toward the vision, but especially be demanding of yourself and lead by example.
Rule #12: Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
Once a strategy is in place, it is your job as a leader is to help everyone stick to it. Most businesses fail not because the strategy was wrong, but because there was a failure in execution. Always listen to others, but also work to get beyond your fears and those who question the new direction.
Rule #13: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
Just as the fear and doubt you feel can spill over to your employees, so too can enthusiasm and energy. When your company is embarking upon any major change, your attitude and demeanor is extremely important. People can read you like a book and their behavior and performance is affected accordingly.
Whether the change your organizational development change is being undertaken due to a new strategy, process or technology, it is people – your employees – who will determine the ultimate success or failure of the change initiative.
There are two key factors that need to be in place for your employees to be prepared to implement change successfully:
1. The “Want To” factor
2. The “Can Do” factor
Learning consultants begin this process by recognizing the difference between these two important elements. The “want to” factor is a measure of the amount of buy-in your employees feel with regard to a change. Many companies make the mistake of relying solely on training programs to address the “want to” factor. In implementing a change, training is an essential tool and can be used as an effective way to communicate the rationale behind a change, but to achieve genuine buy-in, leaders at every level must model the new way, live and breathe the change and act in ways that are consistent with the new vision.
While employees may want to get on board with a change, if they are not equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to perform, then the change effort will falter. To address the “can do” factor, training is always a necessary element of any change initiative. If your people feel as if a new technology or new business process will render them incompetent, they will fiercely resist the change. With any major organizational change it is almost always a given that your employees will be expected to either accomplish new things or accomplish things in a different way with new tools. In either case, targeted just-in-time training to transfer knowledge and build critical skills to perform in the new environment is a necessary ingredient for a smooth change implementation.
Implementing organizational change can be stressful and sometimes frightening – especially when a topsy-turvy economy forces your company onto a “battlefield” fraught with uncertainty. Paying attention to time-tested leadership principles and ensuring that your employees are motivated, confident and competent will help your company bring order to the chaos and not just survive, but grow and prosper in a brighter economic future ahead.